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SACUA discusses general counsel search committee

By Danielle Stoppelmann, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 8, 2012

At its meeting Monday, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs debated concerns regarding SACUA’s involvement in designating a search committee for the University’s next general counsel and vice president.

Law School Prof. Suellyn Scarnecchia, former vice president and general counsel resigned from her position effective last May. Scarnecchia was appointed to the position in 2008.

Though some members of the University’s lead governing body expressed frustration with the lack of transparency and participation in choosing the next search committee, SACUA Chair Kimberlee Kearfott, a professor in the College of Engineering and the Medical School, said she is confident that the chosen committee members embody the values of the faculty members.

SACUA member Scott Masten, a Business professor, said SACUA was not fully involved in choosing members for the search committee for the next general counsel, which consulted over the summer, thus limiting SACUA’s involvement in the process.

He added that he regrets that SACUA was not consulted earlier regarding the committee.

“I think that it was really important for us to make a point of the fact that ... we did not have our own representatives on that committee who could have assured that (the faculty values represented) were true,” Masten said. “We did not appoint our own representatives, (the committee members) are not people that we approved and appointed.”

Kearfott said at the meeting that she met with Sally Churchill, the University’s vice president and secretary, and researched the general counsel selection committee members in order to choose a competent team.

“For example, they were wanting policy creation to be based on data and research, which I think is a value that we hold very dearly,” Kearfott said. “After that, I was briefed in a very candid manner concerning the search, which I consider to have been participation.”

Kearfott added that she was pleased with an outside firm that is assisting in determining the general counsel.

“The search firm is a firm that is very experienced at finding general counsels for universities, so I was pretty satisfied with that information,” Kearfott said. “I listened very carefully and heard a number of University values being put forth as well as being looked for in the general counsel’s position.”

Overall, Kearfott said she felt there was an inclusion of SACUA in choosing members for the search committee.

“I can say as much as possible that I am confident that the search committee is a good search committee for this particular task, and I have confidence given that we can’t guarantee any outcome, the choice for general counsel will be a good one,” Kearfott said.

SACUA member Finn Larsen, a physics professor, said process and principle should be considered in making the decision.

“It’s not just what happens, it’s the appearance of how it happens,” Larsen said.

Kearfott said though SACUA can’t make any changes on previous decisions, she is content with the last-minute input she was able to contribute to the search committee. She added that it is SACUA’s responsibility to campaign for the future president search committee.

“The ultimate decision is President Coleman’s, which is hers to make and ours to support,” Kearfott said. “That said, I think it is incumbent upon SACUA to lobby heavily around the issues of inclusion in the upcoming search for president of the University of Michigan for which the search committee has not yet been constituted. I think the principle was embodied by the particular mix of people on the committee.”

After the meeting, Kearfott appeared visibly upset from the discussion and was not available for comment on the issue.

SACUA also discussed the need to elect members to hear grievances and appeals. Members discussed electing internal SACUA members or selecting an external committee of five members, which they ultimately speculated would be most effective.

The appeal board is separate from the grievance hearing board. Karen Staller, the vice chair of SACUA and an associate professor of social work, summed up the possibility of selecting a hearing board, each member with different roles and one focusing on appeals. Kearfott said she will write a proposal to deliver to SACUA.

SACUA has not yet implemented the grievance process completely, but agreed that once policy is set, they need to be easily accessible to the public in a central location, such as the Internet.


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